The image of polo is rapidly changing, and 23-year-old Maui girl and recent Texas Christian University graduate Danielle Travis is right in the thick of things. The United States Polo Association [USPA] recently announced that Travis was chosen to join their elite team of rising talent.
The USPA’s mission is to grow the sport of polo by identifying the most promising young players within the U.S., and provide them mentored training and playing opportunities. This is the second year since the organization was founded, and Travis is one of just 12 players chosen to join the current team of 22. Further, out of the 12 chosen, she is just one of two females in this year’s selection.
Although the achievement seems beyond most of our wildest dreams, Travis is no stranger to the highest levels of athletic success. From preschool through high school, Travis participated and excelled in gymnastics, tennis and equestrian events such as jumping and dressage.
Danielle Travis adds her name to the growing sport of polo.
“I became an athlete at 4 years old,” said Travis. “All the sports I played contributed to where I’m at today.”
Travis’ parents were able to afford her with many opportunities growing up.
“She’s an only child, so my husband and I were able to give her everything,” recalled Travis’ mother, Elise. “We gave her dance lessons, ballet, tap, jazz and gymnastics. She took to it all... At 7, we gave her riding lessons, and she just loved it!”
Elise also stressed how relevant involved parenting was in creating a strong foundation for her daughter.
“All of the activities kept her focused,” she said. “I knew, as a parent, that I had to put the time in… To finally have found what she really wants to do makes everything worthwhile.”
An unlikely polo enthusiast (most players are from polo families, where the sport has been handed down from generation to generation), Travis started playing at age 16 at the Maui Polo Club.
“It was kind of like my calling,” Travis said. “I had always competed in individual sports—the jumpers, gymnastics and tennis. Polo gives you the physical contact of a team sport. It was everything I wanted combined.”
After graduating from Seabury Hall, Travis enrolled in Santa Barbara City College, where she played collegiate polo for three years and was instrumental in forming the SBCC team. She transferred to Texas Christian University where she played her last year of eligibility and concurrently earned her Bachelor of Science in Communications. Since then, she has been playing in women’s polo tournaments.
“I immediately could see that she was extremely athletic and versatile and had unlimited potential,” asserted Santa Barbara Polo School Owner/Director and Polo Coach John Westley. “What I appreciate about Danielle, apart from her riding and playing ability, is her work ethic, commitment and dedication to the sport.”
Travis also has endorsements from other leaders in field, all of which helped her secure her position in the USPA.
“[She] will certainly be an asset to any team she plays on,” wrote Margaritaville Polo Club Manager Archie Salinas. “She listens very well on the field and seems to improve with every chukker [period].”
“I recognized immediately the natural talents and skills of Danielle,” said the USC Polo Head Coach Ardeshir Radpour. “I can confidently say that she is one of the fastest learning and natural polo players I have ever seen.”
This praise bodes well for Travis’s upcoming USPA experience, where she expects training at a level she has yet to receive.
“I just want as much experience from Team USPA as possible,” she said. “If they give me any kind of playing opportunities, I’m going to jump on them. I don’t have any other commitments right now. This is my passion—what I want to do. I want to play as much as I can and get recognition; that’s the biggest thing. I want people to see me as an up-and-coming professional polo player.”
Travis will travel from her residence in Fort Worth, Texas, to Wellington, Florida, for the USPA’s first clinic in February, where she’ll be evaluated by the association and hopes that mentorships and/or internships arise.